In their first major appointment, Columbia Pictures Entertainment Co-chairmen Peter Guber and Jon Peters have named their longtime lawyer, Alan J. Levine, to the post of president and chief operating officer at Columbia's newly formed Filmed Entertainment Group.
The move puts the 42-year-old Levine above Columbia Pictures President Dawn Steel in the company's hierarchy. Steel's fate has been the subject of much speculation in the industry since Columbia was purchased by Sony and many are betting that Steel won't stay.
But Levine insisted in an interview Thursday that he is a business, not a creative, expert and that Steel probably will report directly to Guber and Peters on creative matters.
"I'm not coming in to be the creative genius of the '90s at all," Levine said. "My responsibilities will be on a day-to-day basis."
The Filmed Entertainment Group is composed of Columbia Pictures, Tri-Star Pictures, Triumph Releasing, Columbia Pictures Television, RCA/Columbia Home Video, Merv Griffin Enterprises and those companies' various distribution and ancillary divisions.
Levine has been a partner since 1980 at Armstrong, Hirsch & Levine, an influential law firm in the entertainment industry with close ties to Creative Artists Agency and its powerful stable of stars and directors.
Levine "played a big part in building the Guber-Peters Co. over the past decade," Guber and Peters said in a joint statement. "He is a unique executive and has our complete confidence."
Levine said his first task will be to take a thorough look at Columbia--a job that was delayed by recently settled litigation with Warner Bros., in which Warner tried to block Columbia's hiring of Guber and Peters.
"We really didn't get a look-see at what we have here . . . the tremendous assets, values, libraries and people," Levine said. "We're going to be very slow, deliberate, thorough and responsible."
The Los Angeles native is a graduate of Hollywood High School, where his classmates included Barbara Hershey, John Ritter and Meredith Baxter Birney. Levine dabbled in music and drama but since then has "attempted to suppress that" because "my clients are the stars," he quipped. Levine subsequently earned business and law degrees from USC.